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Butler Pulls Out a “Butler Way” Win at Cincinnati

Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

At Butler University they have a endearing saying about the way the basketball program conducts its business, and that is called the “Butler Way.”

Well on one December night in Cincinnati against the 17th-ranked Bearcats, the “Butler Way” was never more on display than when Roosevelt Jones’ last-second layup sealed the win for the Bulldogs.

While not the prettiest in execution, the result was nevertheless fabulous for Butler. And it was also so reminiscent of its gutty, classic win over Gonzaga a few years ago, in which Jones was the hero in that game too.

Remember this?

In case you missed Wednesday night’s ending, here’s how it went down:

Jones picked up Austin Etherington’s (who by the way practiced this prior to the game, as David Woods of The Indianapolis Star reports) half-court pass at center court with 4.7 seconds left; took a couple of dribbles; bumped into Bearcats’ center Octavius Ellis and banked it off the glass with just one-tenth of a second left.

Ensue pandemonium for Butler.

After the game Woods talked with Butler head coach Chris Holtmannm about the win and Holtmann said it was a true “Butler Win.”

“To me, that’s the highest compliment because our guys played with real grit through the horn. That needs to be what we’re about,” the coach said (per the Indianapolis Star)

In an grueling, physical contest against Cincinnati, Butler battled its way back from nine points down in the second half to get a stunning and resume-building win. The Bulldogs never quit and stuck to the game plan, while letting their seniors do senior things. On a night when point guard Tyler Lewis had an awful game—he was held scoreless on a woeful 0-9 shooting from the field— the Bulldogs just found a (Butler) way to win.

This was the type of get-out-of-dodge win you relish no matter what. Done. On to the next one.

Kellen Dunham was once again a shooting star, as he scored a total of 24 points in the game and 16 of those points came in the final 14 minutes of the game. He hit two clutch threes in the final minutes that gave the Bulldogs all the momentum they needed.

It’s still early, but Butler looks like a serious contender in the Big East, and team you have to be mindful of in March. Granted, it’s silly to make sweeping generalizations and assumptions after just six games, but we’re talking about a very experienced team that has most of it’s squad from last season intact.

With seniors Jones, Dunham, Etherington, and St. Bonaventure grad transfer Jordan Gathers, as well as juniors Lewis and Andrew Chrabascz, this is a team that knows how to close out ball games. Their experience is virtually unmatched,  especially for a major program in a one-and-done era.

The Bulldogs (5-1) have an early RPI (according to KenPom) of 27, and despite a setback to Miami in the Puerto Rico Tip-off title game, they look like they have it all clicking. Buoyed by a 144-point outburst against The Citadel in its opener, Butler is averaging an insane 95 points per game (tops in the Big East and fourth in the country).

Butler also ranks first in the Big East in field-goal percentage (.526), scoring margin (+23.6 points per game) and assist-to-turnover margin ( 1.9 A/TO ratio), while second in the conference in assists per game (18.3), rebounding margin (+10.2), rebounding offense (42.4 per game) and rebounding defense (32.2 per game).

The latter rebounding stats have to be the most revealing and assuring for Holtmann since he lost Kameron Woods, last year’s Big East leading rebounder, from last season’s squad.

It’s been a banner start for the Big East, as Villanova, Xavier and Providence are all off to stellar starts and with the way Butler is playing, they have to be viewed on equal footing with the heavyweights of the league. While Villanova possesses the most pizzazz and cache in the league, Butler and its core of veterans could very well be the last team standing in March among Big East teams.

In fact Butler may have it’s best team since it’s back-to-back championship teams from five years ago.

With the way they gutted out Wednesday’s night game in Cincinnati and with the way they have performed out of the gate, these Bulldogs are certainly reminding us of the old “Butler Way” under ex-head coach Brad Stevens.

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